Two new novels for middle grade readers couldn’t be more different except for one thing: they both concern eleven-year-old girls who have more to offer than first meets the eye.
In Jennifer Holm’s “Turtle in Paradise,” everyone is doing their best to scrape by. It’s 1935, the midst of the Depression, and Turtle’s flighty mother finally has a job as a housekeeper. But her mother’s new boss doesn’t like kids, and her new boyfriend Archie has no room for her, so Turtle is sent far away to Key West, Florida, where her mother’s sister lives.
There this tough, sharp-tongued girl finds a whole new world that’s entirely different from the New Jersey shore she knows. Turtle describes Key West as looking “like a broken chair that’s been left out in the sun to rot.” But it’s also green, covered with vines, brightly colored flowers and palm trees. All the kids go barefoot, most of them are related to her, and news of her arrival is soon all over the island thanks to the “Conch Telegraph.”